I KNEW THAT I COULD STUDY AND PRACTICE Christian Science without being a member of a church. So, when members of the branch church I was attending encouraged me to join, I didn't really understand why I should, although I enjoyed the inspiration I was getting from the services. Then the thought came to me, "You may not need church, but Church needs you." This was a revolutionary idea for me. "The Church needs me? You mean, the way that I think about things is valuable and needed? The Church wants my input about what we should be doing?"
Why wouldn't I want to join an organization that helped me along my spiritual journey?
I had a glimpse this might be so by the inclusiveness and loving outreach of members of the church. They would ask me questions about what I thought they should be doing differently with the services and Sunday School, and how to reach out more to newcomers. They really valued my feedback. At first I wondered, "Why are they asking me? They've been doing this for years!"
But then I realized that I had a unique experience and viewpoint to share. Being a young person, I know firsthand what my peers are going through day-to-day, the challenges they face, and why Church or Christian Science may or may not feel accessible to them. I had struggled with misconceptions about Christian Science myself when I was younger, so I felt I knew what some of those were and ways they could be cleared up. I'm also acquainted with a lot of people who aren't familiar with Christian Science and felt I understood what they would be wanting out of a church and the inspiration they would find helpful. And I'm familiar with new technology, design, and ways of doing things. So the church members really wanted to hear what I had to say.
There was still an aspect of the church organization that turned me off, though, so I decided to look up Mary Baker Eddy's spiritual explanation of Church in Science and Health. It begins, "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (p. 583). I realized that my resistance to joining the church came from seeing it as a human institution filled with sometimes conflicting personalities and opinions. Yet, if Church was the "structure of Truth and Love," then it was a spiritual idea. And if a spiritual idea, then it was governed and sustained by God.
I thought of all the things that I got out of the church services and what they were adding to my week—inspiration, healing, peace, clarity, joy, and a feeling of protection. Why wouldn't I want to join an organization that supported me and helped me along my spiritual journey?
So I joined my local branch church in Illinois. The idea that I was valuable to the church was quickly reinforced by the fact that I was immediately elected to the Executive Board to serve as Clerk. Since being on the board, I've learned so much more about Church and pay particular attention to the second part of Mrs. Eddy's perspective on Church that states the purpose for the human organization: "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick." I constantly question myself whether this is what our church is accomplishing. "What are we doing right, and what can we be doing better? Is there positive change and growth going on?"
These days, people join all sorts of things: Facebook, MySpace, political parties, environmental groups, community causes, neighborhood organizations, clubs at school, and sports teams. Out of all the organizations you can join, I've found church can be the most beneficial. Membership in my branch church has given me so many opportunities for spiritual growth and healing, enabling me to help family and friends, to exceed self-imposed limitations, and to pray more effectively about the world and the environment.
Lindsey Hedge devotes much of her time to the healing practice of Christian Science and also works on occasion as a freelance photographer. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.